Image courtesy of Master isolated images / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

2014 may have restricted budgets but that doesn’t have to mean restricted success or ambition. Here’s six tools you can use to benefit your business for free and set you on the right road for a successful new year.

Prezi – Making presentations different

New year, new business and to get that rolling in there is little doubt you are likely to have to pitch to clients. Gone are the days when a quick chat would suffice or a scribble on the back of a napkin. If you want to create a punchy, funky looking presentation Prezi is the perfect solution. The pain is minimised thanks to professionally designed templates and an exciting library of free content. You can edit and present across all your devices and you can work online and offline so you can keep tweaking your presentation. The big difference from Powerpoint and KeyNote is the zooming and 3D nature of the tool giving immediate dynamics to your presentation. Give it a try. To some it is a bit too much, but it is well worth persevering.

Wufoo – The Online Form Builder 

Your business will struggle to survive without a strong data collection ethos. Who visits, what they but, when they first came across your business, where they live, how they pay – all could be vital facts in helping you to identify your audience and how to market to them in the future. To collect data you need good and working forms. Just a MailChimp has made email marketing achievable for those on a low budget so WuFoo offers the same in the world of the online form. Use their wizard tools to build your form and they deal with building the database, back-end and scripts to make sure you will be collecting understandable data with the minimum of fuss. If you like the free version you can upgrade to use it more.

Buffer – Schedule your social updates 

Probably our favourite tool in the social world. There are others with perhaps more functionality and analytics – and an analytics tool for social is well worth investing in – but Buffer just makes everything so simple. Buffer you set a customised scheduled for Tweets, Facebook updates and now Google+ posts too. You can put these in the system days so you don’t need to spend time every day to post. You can even send things to your schedule via email if you have forgotten and can’t access their mobile app or desktop version. Also they have a great customer service ethos, always keeping customers in the loop on problems and willing to converse when asked too. The free version offers plenty of functionality but if you really enjoy it there is a premium version to let you add even more social networks.

The AA Mileage expenses calculator

Do you drive to visit clients or on work business? Hopefully you have relevant insurance for that which always comes with an additional cost to your personal pocket, so you should be making sure you are claiming that back correctly via expenses. This very simple tool allows you to input the date you travelled where you drove to and from (plus various VIA points as you get with the equally helpful AA Route Planner tool, plus an input as to how much you charge / claim per mile. You can then save a number of journeys or simply that one, print or save the results which can also include a fuel cost too based on your MPG and what you paid at the pump. Very helpful for those end of month tot-ups that really do add up. All FREE to use.

IrfanView – Picture viewer & editing tool

OK maybe not exactly online, but you find it online, download it and use it all for free. We’ve always felt IrfanView’s creators don’t do their product justice by calling it “one of the most popular viewers worldwide” – it is, but it is also so much more. For FREEWARE it is amazing what it can do for you if you load it onto your PC. As well as letting you open a wide range of different image and photo formats, you can edit these, crop them, even build them into a slideshow. It’s no Photoshop but then it doesn’t claim to be, but it can tidy up most images quickly and easily, as well as add some filters and effects. Why does your business need this? Well an image posted on social media is 4 times more likely to boost engagement than one without. Even the best photographers won’t always grab the perfect shot in their viewfinder, so IrfanView offers the chance to make it perfect for posting in a matter of seconds. It also lets you screen grab too, perfect for other marketing promotions and all or free.

Fiverr – The online marketplace for services

Not completely free if you want to book one of those offering services in the market place but you probably will be inspired by just browsing – and that is free. Admittedly, it can effectively be a bit of an X-Factor for creatives looking for a new gig but Fiverr is also full of some very talented people willing to created some very professional and great creatives, for let’s be honest, relatively little payment – the Fiverr refers to the basic US$5 fee most gigs can be bought for – about the cost of a shop-bought coffee. There are good and bad and it always pays to read comments from others that have used them but if you want a voice-over done, want a logo designed, even want a viral video made for your business you won’t find anywhere like this. It’s quick, it’s cheap and it can also be a lot of fun just having a look around. Free to browse, super-cheap to use.

Of course there are more and plenty more for just a minimal outlay too. We’d love to hear your favourites, let us know below or via social media.

2014

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